Good morning. What a morning. Call it the day after Richtpocalypse among DawgNation.
If there’s such a performance index for the thing, you can bet on a dip in Cyber Monday sales and overall workplace performance in Georgia today. What’s the best way to sum up the shock? A friend said this weekend his daughters were three years old when Mark Richt took over at UGA.
Those twin girls are now in college. Everyone is on their hind legs waiting on news about the next guy. He needs to the right guy. He needs to be better than perhaps the program’s all-time best guy. There are no mulligans here. The Smart choice or the next choice better be brilliant.
Greg McGarity and the UGA athletics power brokers have about six days to announce the next head coach. Maybe even less than that. If it is Kirby Smart, then show some savvy that a deal was in place. Make it clear you had a successor in place before you dusted the second-winningest coach in UGA history.
If not, then we are all watching a clown show.
What’s at stake? One potential recruit wanted to commit to the G this weekend. Now he doesn’t know who to talk to. What happens to that guy while the folks with the biggest offices at UGA’s Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall figure it all out?
1. The 5 recruiting things every UGA fan needed to read. Yesterday.
DawgNation put up 33 (33!) articles yesterday on the Richt saga. Here’s the 5 you need to go back and read or re-read now if you have not.
- Mark Richt fired by UGA (Call it what it is)
- What do UGA’s commits think about Richt’s ouster?
- How do UGA’s top uncommitted targets feel?
- What do the elite recruits think about Kirby Smart?
- Most of UGA’s coaches have been pulled off the road
Consider those links to be the five main food groups. Try to read all those bases in order to be able to handle what will follow.
2. What about Jacob Eason?
The plugged-in UGA fan went through the following thoughts yesterday: 1) Richt is out? Huh? They really did it. Man, that’s big; 2) Who’s the next coach? Who can we get? Bill Cowher? Tony Dungy? Nah, let’s be real; 3) Can we hold onto these recruits?; 4) Can we hold onto Jacob Eason especially?
Don’t expect the Eason family to say much this week. It is a fluid situation. DawgNation was able to piece together an idea of what they might be thinking in this scenario based on an interview from earlier this month when rumors swirled about Richt’s status at UGA. Eason even followed Florida’s offensive coordinator on Twitter afterward. That’s worth a read.
Derek Cleveland, the father of UGA’s other cornerstone 2016 recruit, told DawgNation yesterday he had exchanged messages with Jacob Eason’s father after the Richt news broke. How do those families feel about UGA now?.
3. Current player has a message for Eason
How important is the quarterback position to the work that next head coach at UGA? The re-recruitment of Eason will be vital. A current UGA player even offered up a message to Jacob Eason on Sunday night.
How can UGA retain Eason? That starts with selecting the right offensive coordinator who will employ a Pro-Style system. Eason’s father has told DawgNation that will go a long way toward his son maintaining his son’s commitment. He answered a question earlier this month about what would happen with his son’s interest in UGA if Richt somehow did not survive. The offensive system was the first thing that came to his mind.
The clock is ticking. Eason and Cleveland, along with a host of other marquee recruits, had scheduled their official visits for the weekend of the UGA end-of-the-year gala on Dec. 11. If UGA does not have it next coach and staff in place at least a few days prior to that event, that will be bad.
Eason must be retained. If not, that’s the first sign the next staff does not have the recruiting chops to do better than the staff led by a man who also deserves a statue on the UGA campus.
4. Before it all went south ….
One 5-star recruit made a passion plea on Saturday evening and spoke up for Richt. Perhaps the biggest recruiting challenge will be winning over the high school coaches and parents in Georgia. Richt commanded instant respect from the Moms across Georgia for the way he challenged his players to become better men and not just fast-track to the NFL. Maybe he didn’t win all the big games, but it was still an honor to see Richt on the couch along an in-home recruiting visit.
The next UGA coach will have a football background to impress Dad. That’s a no-brainer, but he will be playing catch-up for a long time with what Richt built up over 15 years with the Moms. That just doesn’t go away with a few huge SEC wins.
5. What about Jeremy Pruitt?
Let’s not forget UGA’s ultra-successful and well-liked defensive coordinator in all of this. Jeremy Pruitt was in church on Sunday morning with the mother of a key recruit. I feel Mecole Hardman, Jr. is one of the four most vital prospects UGA must still sign under any circumstance this year.
The current UGA players have shared their thoughts on Pruitt’s worth over social media over the last 15 hours since the Richt news broke. If Smart is the next head coach, he knows Pruitt well from their time together at Alabama. Smart will have the power to shape his staff just about any way he wants to. If he wants to preserve a good chunk of the team’s current commits, then retaining Pruitt makes a lot of sense.
For all the talk about the bringing in “Alabama way” with the moves at UGA, the current defensive coordinator had already been effective in addressing gaps in several areas (staff salaries, recruiting tactics, budget, facilities) within the program. Did he ruffle a few feathers? Maybe. But then maybe those feathers needed to be jostled around a little bit. There is no debating the work he’s done with the defense since he arrived. That’s what he was ultimately paid to do.
UGA’s recruiting class is also currently rated higher than the 2016 crop at Alabama, too.
Jeff Sentell covers UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.